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The effectiveness of ‘nursing beds’: a review of the literature


Peter Griffiths Department of Nursing Studies, King’s College London, Cornwall House, Waterloo Road, London SE1 8WA, England.


A literature search was conducted to identify ‘nursing led in-patient units’ where the nurse is the designated leader of the clinical team. The review concentrates on studies which have attempted to measure the impact of nursing-led in-patient units and reviews both the methodology and outcomes. Three major bodies of work were identified. Lydia Hall’s evaluation of the Loeb Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation (USA) is reviewed in some detail. This work was the model for ‘nursing beds’ at the two Oxfordshire Nursing Development Units (UK) in the 1980s. Studies evaluating these centres are reviewed and reports of similar UK units discussed. A third body of work evaluates a nurse-managed critical care environment. Common features include a case mix based on nursing need with nurses having authority to admit and discharge patients. While results are generally favourable, with improved patient independence, fewer readmissions, lower mortality and cost savings reported in some or all of the studies, all studies reviewed demonstrate the difficulties of applying an experimental model to real life clinical services. Methodological limitations render firm conclusions difficult. Techniques adopted from studies in field settings, the so-called ‘quasi-experiment’, are advocated as a remedy, as is further study of the process of care in investigating this model of care delivery.